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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 01.14.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve posted some beautiful new specimens in this Morocco Update (click here).  The pieces include azurite from Kerrochen and Bou Beker, vanadinite from Taouz, pyrite-coated fluorite from El Hammam, purple fluorite from Tounfit, twinned cerussite from Mibladen and quartz on siderite from Gourrama.

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Crystal 2.5 cm

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Crystal 3.1 cm

Azurite, Bou Beker, Touissit-Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco

Azurite, Bou Beker, Touissit – Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco – 9.7 cm

Azurite with Malachite, Bou Beker, Touissit - Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco

Azurite with Malachite, Bou Beker, Touissit – Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco – 6.3 cm

Vanadinite, Taouz, Er Rachidia Province, Morocco

Vanadinite, Taouz, Er Rachidia Province, Morocco – 5.2 cm

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 6.0 cm

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 4.2 cm

Cerussite with Barite, Les Dalles Mine, Mibladen Mining District, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Cerussite with Barite, Les Dalles Mine, Mibladen Mining District, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 4.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 3.5 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 3.0 cm

Quartz, Siderite, Gourrama, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Quartz, Siderite, Gourrama, Er Rachidia, Morocco
Crystal 3.2 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.27.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted some excellent new specimens in this Brazil Update (click here). This update is a mix of great pieces from various finds and localities. Among them, there is a superb spessartine from the 2003 pocket at the Navegadora Mine and a gorgeous rutile star with glass-clear pale smoky quartz crystals over it. This update features some exceptionally fine crystals of rutile var struverite-ilmenorutile, and it also includes sharp crystals of chrysoberyl var. alexandrite. Many more fine specimens, including excellent crystals of montebrasite, brazilianite, spodumene var. kunzite, muscovite (including “star”-twinned crystals), rutilated quartz and sceptered quartz.

Spessartine Garnet, Navegadora Mine, Penha do Norte, Conselheiro Pena, Minas Gerais, Brazil

 Spessartine Garnet, Navegadora Mine, Penha do Norte, Conselheiro Pena, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 6 cm

Quartz, Rutile, Hematite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil

Quartz on a Rutile-Hematite star, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil
Field of view 6 cm

 Rutile, var. Struverite-Ilmenorutile, Golconda District, Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, BrazilRutile, var. Struverite-Ilmenorutile, Golconda District, Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 4.1 cm

Rutile, var. Struverite-Ilmenorutile, Santa Rosa Mine, Itambacuri, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Rutile, var. Struverite-Ilmenorutile, Santa Rosa Mine, Itambacuri, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 3.1 cm

Rutile, var. Struverite-Ilmenorutile, Santa Rosa Mine, Itambacuri, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Rutile, var. Struverite-Ilmenorutile, Santa Rosa Mine, Itambacuri, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2.5 cm

Rutile, Diamantina, Jequitinhonha Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Rutile, Diamantina, Jequitinhonha Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 3.8 cm

Montebrasite, Telirio Claim, Linoplois, Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Montebrasite, Telirio Claim, Linoplois, Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Field of view 3.3 cm

Brazilianite, Telirio Claim, Linoplois, Divino das Laranjeiras, Brazil

Brazilianite, Telirio Claim, Linoplois, Divino das Laranjeiras, Brazil – 4.2 cm

Chrysoberyl var. Alexandrite, Carnaíba District, Pindobaçu, Bahia, Brazil

Chrysoberyl var. Alexandrite, Carnaíba District, Pindobaçu, Bahia, Brazil – 1.5 cm twin

Chrysoberyl var. Alexandrite, Carnaíba District, Pindobaçu, Bahia, Brazil

Chrysoberyl var. Alexandrite, Carnaíba District, Pindobaçu, Bahia, Brazil – 4.7 cm

Chrysoberyl (Twinned) on Muscovite, Rio das Pratinhas, Arataca, Bahia, Brazil

Chrysoberyl (Twinned) on Muscovite, Rio das Pratinhas, Arataca, Bahia, Brazil – 3.1 cm

Spodumene var. Kunzite, Urucum Mine, Galilea, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Spodumene var. Kunzite, Urucum Mine, Galilea, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 6.9 cm

Muscovite ("Star Mica"), Jenipapo Mine, Itinga, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Muscovite (“Star Mica”), Jenipapo Mine, Itinga, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 6.6 cm

Rutilated Quartz, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil

Rutilated Quartz, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 9.4 cm

Quartz, Barra do Salinas, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Quartz, Barra do Salinas, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 7.0 cm

Quartz, Barra do Salinas, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Quartz, Barra do Salinas, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 7.1 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.02.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added some great new French specimens in this France Update (click here).

Several were recently collected by French collector Grégoire de Bodinat at the Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France. The Mésage Mine was originally explored in the early-nineteenth century for iron, and the underground workings have been abandoned since the late-nineteenth century. Grégoire had a nice selection of high quality specimens from this classic region – siderite with quartz, ankerite crystals, and sharp bournonite crystals with white barite.

This update also includes a fine bournonite from Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, and a water-clear (literally!) calcite crystal perched on smaller calcite crystals from Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine.

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

 Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.6 cm

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

 Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 4.9 cm

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite, Pyrite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite, Pyrite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.4 cm

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 4.7 cm

Calcite, Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France

Calcite, Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.02.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

In a valley in the Vosges region of France, the quiet town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines transforms into a bustling mineral and gem extravaganza every June. This is the most beautiful setting for any of the world’s major annual mineral shows, and attending is a great experience.

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2016 mineral show

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, 2016

Although there was much stormy and unsettled weather across France and Germany this year, the towns of this area escaped the more significant flooding damage that affected so many communities elsewhere. The Rhine was certainly swollen with much more water than usual – and thunderstorms left debris on the roads – but for the most part, the rains just meant lots of green across the countryside.

Orschwiller, France

Vineyards, near Orschwiller. Chateau Haut Koenigsbourg is perched above, in the Vosges mountains.

I love the region’s idyllic small towns – quiet, with the calls of blackbirds overhead.

Saint Hippolyte, France

Saint Hippolyte, Haut-Rhin, France

Saint Hippolyte, France

Beautiful Alsace architecture bathed in a warm evening light

In the town of Ste. Marie itself, one of my favourite things about its setting is that the valley is quite steep, and so the forests and pastures form a backdrop for many of the views from down in the middle of the town.

Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, France

Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, Val D’Argent, France

The river and waterways of the town are channeled behind the houses and other buildings – and normally at this time of year there isn’t much water. This year, there was lots!

Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, France

Bubbling water channel running through Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

One thing that really stood out this year was the temperature – it was HOT! Humid too. Lots of sun and haze… and you also had to watch for the late-afternoon thunderstorms.

Storm3

Signs of impending rain at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2016

So I did see this one coming…

Storm1

Thunderstorm coming from up the Val D’Argent

…and I thought I had time to make it back to the car, but… ended up sheltering part way there, when the skies opened up!

Storm2

Rainwater streaming from waterspouts directly into the water channel that runs behind the houses – efficient!

The storms were short and did not make life uncomfortable for long – they were actually refreshing. In fact, there was something that made things far more uncomfortable at the show…

Halogen

300W halogen lights on stands. It is hard to find a hotter mainstream light source (!) – these were all over the indoor dealer displays.
I love the colour quality of halogen lights, but these things are stoves on sticks.

Sainte-Marie-aux_Mines, France

One of the tent-lined streets at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

For me the most exciting new find at Ste. Marie was actually not on public display. Tomasz Praszkier brought out the top new Moroccan aragonite specimens and they are truly superb! Aragonite is not a rare mineral, of course, and some aragonite localities are rather abundant producers, so, for example, we typically see lots of aragonite available from Tazouta, Morocco, and also from Minglanilla, Spain. (Even in those instances, truly fine specimens are not the rule, as the vast majority are damaged). These specimens exhibit twinning, with pseudo-hexagonal cyclic twins of aragonite. However, these new specimens from Mamsa are classic, elongated, tapered orthorhombic crystals in groups of radiating spikes and make for dramatic specimens.  Even though aragonite itself is uncommon, it is very hard to acquire high-quality specimens of this most classic habit.

In this case, Tomasz went through hundreds of flats (yes flats (!)) of material in Morocco, and the specimens I acquired from him are all in the top 20 to date (top 20 pieces, not flats!). Almost everything he saw was badly damaged. This bulk of lower quality material will undoubtedly begin to show up at future mineral shows, but – interesting – it was almost entirely absent among the Moroccan dealers in Ste. Marie.

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco – 7.5 cm

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 6 cm

It is notable that the aragonite at this locality does also occur in other habits, including as elongated pseudo-hexagonal twins, so we may see those in future. The locality itself is well-exposed in a barren area north of Sidi Ayed. The difficulty is that the material closer to the surface has been extracted, and this was the matrix that was easier to collect – as they’ve gone deeper, the matrix has been tougher, and the material from these deeper excavations has been damaged. Most collecting there has been by local collectors who are more often digging agates, and of course collecting these delicate aragonite sprays required different techniques and care – hence the high level of damage with most of this material.

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

 Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco – 6.9 cm

As usual, there were many Moroccan dealers with the usual – most had very typical material, in moderate condition. One interesting new find was some purple fluorite, from very narrow seams at a locality Elyachi, near Tatouine.

TatouineFluorite

 

Fluorite, Elyachi, nr. Tatouine, Meknes-Tafilalet, Morocco – 8.2 cm

One last note from Morocco is that the production of the beautiful blue barites from Sidi Lahcen (these ones) is reportedly finished. Although we always have to be skeptical when we are told that a locality is exhausted, the marketplace confirmed it in Ste. Marie this year, with almost no truly high-quality specimens available.

Speaking of high-quality specimens one cannot track down… I had hoped to bring back a few more of the bright yellow stilbite ball specimens from Mali (if you aren’t familiar with them, some are here). Although there were some at the show, they were all too damaged for our collections – I’m not sure that any were new. I suspect that most were the low-quality pieces from the original collecting of this material. I continue to keep an eye out for them, as they are some of the nicest yellow stilbite specimens I’ve ever seen, and they look so great in the cabinet. We’ll see what the future brings. In the meantime, I was able to pick up some excellent prehnite/epidote specimens from Mali, along with a sharp, lustrous vesuvianite.

Prehnite Mali

 Prehnite, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.3 cm

New from France, French collector Grégoire de Bodinat recently collected some beautiful specimens at the Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France. The Mésage Mine was originally explored in the early-nineteenth century for iron, and the underground workings have been abandoned since the late-nineteenth century. Grégoire had a nice selection of high quality specimens from this classic region – siderite with quartz, ankerite crystals, and sharp bournonite crystals with white barite.

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.6 cm

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 4.9 cm

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

The Mésage Mine specimens are on the website here.

Finally, another great new find is from the Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland. This is of gypsum, var. selenite, with inclusions of herbertsmithite (a rare copper chloride mineral), making the specimens a vibrant green colour. These are gorgeous cabinet specimens! There were not many of these, and only a handful were top quality – I acquired all of the top quality ones.

Gypsum, var. Selenite, Herbertsmithite, Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland

Gypsum, var. Selenite, with inclusions of Herbertsmithite, Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland
Crystals up to approximately 3 cm

Displays

The Saint-Marie-aux-Mines show has hosted super displays in recent years.

This year, the main theme was Minerals and Wines (“Origines Pierres et Vins”), with some cases dedicated to matching mineral colours and wine colours, and others featuring the wines and minerals of a particular region.

DisplayRioja
Rioja, Spain – home of great wines and the incomparable pyrites of Navajun
Display by Pedro Conde

DisplayChessy4
The minerals and wines of the Chessy-les-Mines, Rhône

The Chessy case had some amazing specimens – here is a closer look at a few:

DisplayChessy1

Cuprite crystals, Chessy-les-Mines

DisplayChessy2

Azurite, Chessy-les-Mines – a gorgeous specimen,approximately 9 cm

From the Origines Pierres et Vins cases, I loved this Chanarcillo Prousite from the Collection of the Museum National d’Histoire Natural in Paris.

DisplayProustite

Proustite, Chanarcillo, Atacama, Chile – approximately 4 cm

The exposition also included a few cases dedicated to colours in minerals, explaining what causes the colours in certain minerals. These cases included many stunning specimens and here are a few.

DisplayAdamite

This adamite was an amazing hue – approximately 5 cm

This next one looks at a glance like it’s a classic from Amatitlan, Guererro, Mexico, but look at the label… (!)

DisplayAmethyst

Amethyst, Traversella, Piedmont, Italy, approximately 20 cm

This photo doesn’t do this crystal justice – an astounding, lustrous, old-time Red Cloud wulfenite, pristine…

DisplayWulfenite
Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, La Paz Co., Arizona – crystal approximatey 4 cm
Collection of the Musée Mineralogie de Mines, Paris Tech

And finally, while we’re on the subject of the causes of colour in minerals, and leaving the displays… I wandered into one dealer with new crystals of “Amegreen” (!). These are Uruguayan amethysts that have been subjected to radiation in a lab, to turn them green. Blech!! (At least the dealer was openly disclosing the origins of the colour.)

Amegreen

Quartz, originally var. amethyst, tortured and turned green in a lab using radiation – marketed as “Amegreen”
Artigas, Uruguay

 Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines is such a great show. I already can’t wait for next year, and hope to see you there!

St. Hippolyte, France

 Beautiful summer evening in Alsace

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 06.07.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added some great specimens in this Mont Saint-Hilaire Update (click here). One of the world’s great mineral localities, with over 400 species, the quarry has been closed to collecting since 2007 (with isolated exceptions that have not produced specimens in any quantity). The specimens in this update are from finds dated from 1988 to 2007.

One of the most remarkable aspects of collecting at Mont Saint-Hilaire is that no two occurrences are the same – the mineralized zones and pockets are each different, with varied mineral assemblages and crystal habits. This selection of specimens represents several different finds, each of which was unique.

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.4 cm

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.4 cm

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.2 cm

Analcime pseudomorph after analcime, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Analcime pseudomorph after analcime, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.7 cm

Manganoneptunite on catapleiite pseudomorph after sodalite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Manganoneptunite on catapleiite pseudomorph after sodalite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada
Field of view 1.0 cm

Rhodochrosite (twinned), Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Rhodochrosite (twinned), Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.5 cm

Analcime on microcline, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Analcime on microcline, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.6 cm

Serandite with epidiymite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Serandite with epididymite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 7.3 cm

Sodalite, var. hackmanite, pink albite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Sodalite, var. hackmanite with pink albite coating, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.4 cm

Sodalite, var. hackmanite with pink albite coating, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Sodalite, var. hackmanite with albite coating, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 2.5 cm

Narsarsukite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Narsarsukite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 1.2 cm crystal

Leucophanite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Leucophanite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 2.4 cm

Analcime, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Analcime, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.6 cm

Rhodochrosite pseudomorph after serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Rhodochrosite pseudomorph after serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.3 cm

Quartz with albite and gaidonnayite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Quartz with albite and gaidonnayite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 6.3 cm

Quartz with albite and gaidonnayite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Quartz with albite and gaidonnayite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.2 cm

Quartz, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Quartz, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.2 cm

Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.2 cm

Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.5 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.23.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted a small group of excellent specimens in the new Russia Update (click here).  These include beautiful high-quality crystals of axinite-(Fe) from two localites, intense blue azurite balls and sharp copper crystals from the Rubstovskoe Mine, great calcite crystals from the Dal’negorsk district and more.

Axinite-(Fe), Puiva Mount, Saranpaul, Tyumenskaya Oblast', Ural Mountains, RussiaAxinite-(Fe), Puiva Mount, Saranpaul, Tyumenskaya Oblast’, Ural Mountains, Russia – 5.8 cm

Axinite-(Fe), Bor Pit, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia
Axinite-(Fe), Bor Pit, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia – 4.8 cm

Axinite-(Fe), Bor Pit, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia
Axinite-(Fe), Bor Pit, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Axinite-(Fe), Bor Pit, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Axinite-(Fe), Bor Pit, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Axinite-(Fe), Bor Pit, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Axinite-(Fe), Bor Pit, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Azurite, Rubtsovskoe Mine, Rudnyi Altai, Altiskii Krai, Russia

Azurite, Rubtsovskoe Mine, Rudnyi Altai, Altiskii Krai, Russia – 3.7 cm

Azurite, Rubtsovskoe Mine, Rudnyi Altai, Altiskii Krai, Russia

Azurite, Rubtsovskoe Mine, Rudnyi Altai, Altiskii Krai, Russia – 3.5 cm

101295(2)(fov 3.0)

Copper, Rubtsovskoe Mine, Rudnyi Altai, Altiskii Krai, Russia
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Calcite, Second Sovietskiy Mine, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Calcite, Second Sovietskiy Mine, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia – 6.5 cm

Calcite, Yushnoe Mine, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Calcite, Yushnoe Mine, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Calcite, Yushnoe Mine, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Calcite, Yushnoe Mine, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia – 1.3 cm twinned crystal

Calcite, Yushnoe Mine, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Calcite, Yushnoe Mine, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia – 4.5 cm

Datolite, Bor Pit, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

Datolite, Bor Pit, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia
Field of view 1.5 cm

101290(1)

Quartz, Anatase, Brookite
Dodo Mine, Saranpaul, Tyumenskaya Oblast’, Ural Mountains, Russia
10.4 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.07.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added a few colourful new specimens in this Morocco Update (click here).  This update includes some particularly fine and unusual pieces, including a super azurite-malachite from the Tasalart Mine, Tafraout, exceptional fluorites from Sidi Said, hot pink cobaltoan dolomites, a glowing jewel of a cobaltoan calcite from the Agoudal Mine in the Bou Azzer district, a mirror-bright skutterudite from the Bouismas Mine and a beautiful, classic twinned cerussite from Touissit.

Azurite and malachite pseudomorphs after azurite, Tazalart Mine, Tafraout, Tiznit Province, Morocco

 Azurite and malachite pseudomorphs after azurite, Tazalart Mine, Tafraout, Tiznit Province, Morocco
Field of view 4.5 cm

Fluorite, Chebka Sidi Said, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Chebka Sidi Said, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco – 4.o cm

 Fluorite, Chebka Sidi Said, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite with quartz, Chebka Sidi Said, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco – 5.2 cm

Dolomite, var. cobaltoan dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Dolomite, var. cobaltoan dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 5.7 cm

Dolomite, var. cobaltoan dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Dolomite, var. cobaltoan dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 13.7 cm

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District,
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.2 cm

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view – 2.5 cm

Skutterudite, Bouismas Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Skutterudite, Bouismas Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view – 2.5 cm

Quartz on Chalcedony, Sidi Rahal, El Kelaa des Sraghna Province, Morocco

Quartz on Chalcedony, Sidi Rahal, El Kelaa des Sraghna Province, Morocco
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Sidi Rahal, El Kelaa des Sraghna Province, Morocco

Quartz var. Amethyst, Sidi Rahal, El Kelaa des Sraghna Province, Morocco
Field of view – 5.0 cm

Cerussite, Touissit, Jerada Province, Oriental Region, Morocco

Cerussite, Touissit, Jerada Province, Oriental Region, Morocco – 3.1 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.15.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted a new Brazil Update (click here), with superb, diverse specimens.

From the world famous morganite finds at the Urucum Mine, this crystal is likely from the 1973 pocket.

Beryl, var. Morganite, Urucum Mine,  Galileia, Minas Gerais, BrazillBeryl, var. Morganite, Urucum Mine, Galileia, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 7.9 cm

A one-of-a-kind specimen, this aqua-colours montebrasite crystal was found in a pocket in the 1970s. Most of the pocket material was etched and did not exhibit crystal faces.

Montebrasite, Lavra da Ilha, Taquaral, Itinga, Minas Gerais, BrazilMontebrasite, Lavra da Ilha, Taquaral, Itinga, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 3.9 cm

From a new recent find, a small pocket at Novo Horizonte produced a small number of remarkable crystals, sold to me under the label “synchysite”. Subsequent analysis by Don Doell has confirmed more about their identity. Having conducted semi-quantitative EDS at SGS Labs, Don found that these are in fact phosphate mineralization, and they are likely a combination of rhabdophane-(La), rhabdophane-(Ce) and possibly including monazite-(Ce). They appear to be pseudomorphs after a REE carbonate, probably in the parisite group, given that parisite-(La) has been found at Novo Horizonte in crystals with a similar aspect and appearance, at a similar time. They could also be after bastnasite-(La), which has been described from the locality. For now, I’m labelling them rhabdophane, pseudomorph after parisite, with the proviso that the above is the technically closest identification information to date. Thanks very much to Don for this analysis!

Synchysite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, BrazilRhabdophane pseudomorph after Parisite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 3.4 cm

Synchysite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, BrazilRhabdophane pseudomorph after Parisite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 2.6 cm

Synchysite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, BrazilRhabdophane pseudomorph after Parisite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 2.0 cm


Synchysite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil Rhabdophane pseudomorph after Parisite – 2.4 cm

Also from Novo Horizonte, a tabular crystal of rutilated quartz, in superb condition and with bright prismatic golden rutile crystals:

Rutilated Quartz, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil

Rutilated Quartz, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 7.6 cm

From Brumado, excellent pleochroic crystals of uvite tourmaline, exhibiting purple hues at certain angles and greenish hues when viewed from other angles. The first two photographs below are views of the same uvite crystal from different viewing angles.

Uvite Tourmaline (Pleochroic), Magnesite,  Pombas Mine, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, BrazilUvite Tourmaline (Pleochroic), Magnesite, Pombas Mine, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, Brazil
Crystal 0.8 cm

Uvite Tourmaline (Pleochroic), Magnesite,  Pombas Mine, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, BrazilUvite Tourmaline (Pleochroic), Magnesite, Pombas Mine, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, Brazil
Same crystal as prior photo

Uvite Tourmaline (Pleochroic), Magnesite,  Pombas Mine, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, BrazilUvite Tourmaline (Pleochroic), Magnesite, Pombas Mine, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, Brazil
5.4 cm

Uvite Tourmaline (Pleochroic), Magnesite,  Pombas Mine, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, Brazil Uvite Tourmaline (Pleochroic), Magnesite, Pombas Mine, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, Brazil
Crystal 1.2 cm

Another unusual tourmaline for Brumado, green dravite crystals are quite uncommon.

Dravite Tourmaline, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, Brazil

Dravite Tourmaline, Magnesite, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, Brazil – 1.5 cm crystal

The update also includes specimens from other well-known finds and localities

Elbaite Tourmaline, Barra do Salinas, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil Elbaite Tourmaline, Barra do Salinas, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2.9 cm

Brazilianite, Telirio Claim, Linoplois, Divino das Laranjeiras, Brazil

Brazilianite, Telirio Claim, Linoplois, Divino das Laranjeiras, Brazil
Crystals to 3 cm

Fluorapatite, Bertrandite, Faria Mine, Golconda District, Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Fluorapatite, Bertrandite, Faria Mine, Golconda District, Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Crystal 1.5 cm

Hematite (Iron Rose). Coluna Mine, Miguel Burnier District, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Hematite (Iron Rose). Coluna Mine, Miguel Burnier District, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Field of view approximately 4 cm

Hydroxylherderite, Morro Redondo Mine, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Hydroxylherderite, Morro Redondo Mine, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 5.3 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 05.08.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

This Malawi Update (click here) features a small number of selected, different, specimens from well-known Mount Malosa (the world’s top locality for fine aegirine crystals), and two super aegirine crystals from a recent find at the Mulanje Massif, over 100 km to the south of Mount Malosa.  The large cluster of radiating aegirine crystals is super!

Aegirine on Microcline with Monazite and Zircon, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, MalawiAegirine on Microcline with Monazite and Zircon, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 8.5 cm

Aegirine, Mulanje Massif, MalawiAegirine, Mulanje Massif, Malawi – 7.5 cm

Aegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, MalawiAegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – field of view 4.5 cm

Aegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, MalawiAegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 4.5 cm

Aegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, MalawiAegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 4.8 cm

Aegirine with Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, MalawiAegirine with Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 7.1 cm

Aegirine, Mulanje Massif, MalawiAegirine, Mulanje Massif, Malawi – 5.9 cm

Zircon on Quartz, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, MalawiZircon on Quartz, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 6.7 cm

Arfvedsonite on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, MalawiArfvedsonite on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 5.3 cm

Aegirine with Quartz, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Aegirine with Quartz, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 6.5 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.30.2015 | Filed under: Adventurers, Latest | Comments (0)

This article is jointly authored by Raymond McDougall, David K. Joyce and Ian Nicklin. Except as otherwise credited, all photographs are R. McDougall photos.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Quartz var. amethyst with hematite inclusions from the Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario
Field of view 8.0 cm

THUNDER BAY AMETHYST

Just north of Lake Superior, the Thunder Bay District of Ontario is world famous for its distinctive, ancient amethyst crystals. Thunder Bay amethyst has been known since the 19th century, and is remarkable for its variety – it occurs in all shades of purple from pale to deep, from warm to cool hues, it is often further coloured by inclusions (most often red, due to included hematite) and once in a while phantoms are also found. It is a long journey to the amethyst mines of the Thunder Bay District, and hopefully this article will bring this beautiful region, its history, geology, mines and collecting experience a bit closer!

Location

The Thunder Bay District is located along the northern shore of Lake Superior.  The Thunder Bay District is a formal subdivision of the Province of Ontario comprising over 103,000 square km. The amethyst-producing region, within the Thunder Bay District, is located in an area approximately 60 km northeast of the city of Thunder Bay. Just to give you a sense of how long a drive it is to reach the amethyst area from major international centres, it is over 1200 km from Toronto and over 1000 km from Chicago. (Closer large cities are still a surprisingly long way from Thunder Bay: Milwaukee over 900 km, Winnipeg over 700 km and Minneapolis-St.Paul approx. 550 km). Flights from Toronto are frequent, but commercial air travel is not the most convenient when transporting major collecting gear or any decent amount of specimen material.

MapMap showing the location of the Thunder Bay District, with red dart in the amethyst-producing region
and green dart showing the city of Thunder Bay. (Google Earth 2015, Image credits: Landsat, NOAA.)

North of Superior

The land north of Lake Superior is rugged – it is stunning, wild country. It is one of the most beautiful regions in Canada, but because it is relatively remote from major population centres, it is not as well-known or as frequented as some of our more famous scenic locations. It is a land of the Canadian Shield, with exposed Precambrian rock, lakes and evergreen forests.

Lake Superior North ShoreIslands among the waves, north shore of Lake Superior, Ontario

The distant hills are often quite rounded thanks to the glaciers, and in many places, the shoreline rock has been shaped into smooth forms, first by the glaciers, and since the end of the last Ice Age, by the unrelenting waves, ice rafts and deep frost.

Neys Provincial Park, OntarioGranite on a calm day along the north shore of Lake Superior, Ontario

Inland from the shoreline, signs of the last glaciation are still readily apparent, with rock faces worn smooth, and interesting features like the deep, dark, round pools known as kettles, created by powerful glacial runoff, carrying rocks as abrasive agents. The most recent glaciers receded from the area approximately 10,000 years ago.

Granitepool2The Canadian Shield north of Lake Superior, sculpted by the glaciers

Even beyond the glaciers and away from the shoreline of Lake Superior, this region is constantly being visibly reshaped – by heavy storms, and often just by water as it makes its way from higher land down to Lake Superior.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, OntarioSmall waterfall, north of Lake Superior, Ontario

Speaking of storms, Thunder Bay is named for the sound of the thunderstorms as they roll through. Severe thunderstorms are common throughout Ontario in the summer months, but they are just awesome in Thunder Bay, where the thunder booms around the bay and echoes off the surrounding landforms. (It is an amazing experience. Ideally not experienced in a tent.)

The Thunder Bay District is home to lots of wildlife, including large mammals such as moose, timberwolves and black bears.

Black Bear, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, OntarioBlack bear out for a summer stroll, Sibley Peninsula, Thunder Bay District, Ontario

From Early People to Modern Times 

After the glaciers retreated, the first people moved in to inhabit the lands along the north shore of Lake Superior, approximately 10,000 years ago. Several peoples have lived in this region since that time, the Plano, the Shield Archaic, the Laurel and the Terminal Woodland peoples, and the Anishinaabe (including the Ojibwe, or Chippewa). They have hunted, fished, gathered berries and even mined native copper – and they have been active traders. Early inhabitants used canoes for water transportation – first, canoes were carved out of large tree trunks, and later canoes were made using lighter wooden frames covered by birch bark and assembled using a glue made largely from tree resins (combined with animal fat and soot).

Today, there are few tangible signs of most of these early peoples. In some places, small stone pits and piles of stone are evident, and artifacts have assisted researchers to better understand the past of the area. Painted red ochre pictographs are seen on the Lake Superior shoreline cliffs – these are comparatively recent, estimated to be 200-400 years old.

Agawa Rock Pictographs, Lake Superior Provincial Park, OntarioPictographs, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario

With the arrival of the first French explorers in the mid-17th century and the opening up of trade by the British and the Hudson’s Bay Company, life around Lake Superior began to change. Through trade, the French and the British engaged with the Ojibwe people. As the British continued to explore and develop these interior regions during the nineteenth century, prospecting and mining followed.

Ojibwe Teepees, Fort William, OntarioTeepees, dwellings of the Ojibwe people (constructed as they were in the early 19th century)

In the beginning, what is now the city of Thunder Bay was comprised of two separate settlements/towns (it was not until 1970 that they amalgamated as Thunder Bay). The first was Fort William, which was established in 1803 by the North West Company as a trading post for furs and other goods. After the merger of North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821, the importance of Fort William as a trading post diminished, although the settlement continued on and became a town.

Fort William, OntarioFort William Trading Post (constructed as the original was constructed, early 19th century)

In the latter half of the 19th-century, a  second settlement, initially named Prince Arthur’s Landing, was founded nearby in connection with the Government of Canada’s post-confederation efforts to extend the railway from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Soon renamed Port Arthur, it was was initially supported by local silver mining. As the silver mining declined, the era of railway development was on the rise, and  both Port Arthur and Fort William were to become important Canadian railway towns. Port Arthur was the key rail terminal for Western Canadian wheat, which was then loaded onto ships and transported through the Great Lakes.

Once the first railway across the north of Lake Superior was completed in 1885, trains were the major means of land transportation across the region for the next 75 years.

FortWilliamTrainMountain type Canadian National Railway train, Fort William, Ontario, December 24, 1957.
(Lloyd Zapfe photo, courtesy of Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society 972.272.16hh)

These same Northern Ontario railways are still fundamental Canadian transportation corridors today, linking Central and Western Canada. The echo of trains in the distance day and night is an evocative sound of this part of the country.

CNR Train, Northern OntarioCNR train near Armstrong, Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Because the land is so rugged, with steep hills and river gorges, the last section of the Trans-Canada Highway linking Thunder Bay with Sault Ste. Marie (at the eastern end of Lake Superior) took decades to complete and was only finally opened in 1960. Today the Trans-Canada Highway in this region runs like a ribbon through hundreds of kilometers of rocky forest, sometimes relatively close to the lakeshore, and sometimes much further north, where construction was more feasible.

Trans-Canada Highway, Lake Superior, OntarioTrans-Canada Highway, Lake Superior, Ontario

Ancient Geology

The land north of Lake Superior is part of the Canadian Shield, and includes ancient rock types dating back to 2.7 billion years old. The landforms and rocks evidence mountains and volcanoes that have come and gone, and massive geological events including regional structural metamorphism, folding and major faulting.

Ouimet Canyon, OntarioOuimet Canyon, Thunder Bay District, Ontario

The amethyst deposits of the Thunder Bay District are associated with the rocks of the Osler Group, formed during a late Precambrian stage of volcanism and faulting, from 1.2 to 0.9 billion years ago. In general, the amethyst deposits are in or near the granitic rocks, in proximity to the contacts between the rocks of the Osler and Sibley Groups. The faulting and related fracturing of these rocks during the late precambrian allowed for the intrusion of the fluids which ultimately led to the deposition of the amethyst crystals. These fluids precipitated the amethyst (and also silver, lead and zinc-bearing minerals at the localities where they occur) onto the walls of the fractures, creating crystal-lined veins and cavities. The faulting and fracturing – and therefore the nature and occurrence of ameythst-bearing veins – differs somewhat from locality to locality within the Thunder Bay District. Some brecciated zones are characterized by large numbers of relatively parallel small veinlets, while in other places much larger fractures are hosted by much more competent rock. The size of individual amethyst crystal-bearing vugs and cavities can vary significantly – they can be as small as 2 cm and a cavity 15 x 3 x 2.4 metres has been excavated. The vugs and cavities within a vein or berated zone are often interconnected with one another.

History of Thunder Bay District Amethyst Discoveries

Silver was discovered in the Thunder Bay District in the mid-19th century and soon silver mines were operating. Amethyst was found in these mines, and was described by W.E. Logan (founder of the Geological Survey of Canada, and namesake of weloganite) in a report in 1846. By 1887, G.F. Kunz was reporting a thriving trade and exports of amethyst from the Thunder Bay District for tourists and for building materials. However, by the early 20th century, two factors led to the decline of the Thunder Bay District amethyst trade: the silver mines began to close and large amounts of high-grade Brazilian amethyst began to appear on the market.

For mineral collectors, the most important amethyst discoveries were yet to come. In 1955, amethyst crystals were discovered northeast of Port Arthur in McTavish Township, but it was the discovery by Rudy Hartviksen in 1967 at Loon Lake (also in McTavish Twp.) that began the modern era of fine amethyst production from the Thunder Bay District. The deposit found in 1967 was to become the Thunder Bay Amethyst Mine, the largest commercial amethyst mine in the region. It has operated continuously since that time and is now named the Amethyst Mine Panorama. Many other localities in the Thunder Bay District have been operated since 1967, and perhaps the most prolific for producing fine, top-quality collector specimens has been the Diamond Willow Mine.

The Diamond Willow Mine

The Diamond Willow Mine is on a vein in McTavish Township, in the Thunder Bay District, located on a claim block at the northern end of Pearl Lake. It was named by its owner, Gunnard Noyes, after the type of willow tree that grows at the site of the mine and is highly prized by wood carvers. From the late 1970s and for over 30 years, sections of the vein were leased and worked in the summers by the father-son team of David and Ian Nicklin. They collected with great care and produced some of the finest quality amethyst to have ever come from the Thunder Bay District.

During this period, portions of the Diamond Willow vein were also worked by Gunnard Noyes, his sons Doug and Clark, and later his daughter Francis.

To give a small insight into what really lies behind the excellent amethysts mined during that period at the Diamond Willow Mine, the following account is written by Ian, together with a few photographs from mining in those days.

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioArrival at the Diamond Willow Mine (I. Nicklin photo)

Amethyst Mining at the Diamond Willow Mine

My father, Dave Nicklin, and I first met Gunnard on the suggestion of the Ontario Geological Survey regional geologist in Thunder Bay 42 years ago, while on a summer rock collecting trip. Gunnard had worked in the mines at Sudbury for many years and had retired to the small railway stop town of Pearl, approximately 60 km northeast of Thunder Bay. He was a great source of stories and a remarkably generous man. Knowing of the amethyst riches in the region, he staked his several claims just north of the hamlet of Pearl but when we first met him they were not developed to any extent. The claims were only accessible by a narrow twisting trail or by canoe, up Pearl Lake.

On our first visit, my father and I canoed Gunnard’s ancient but still functional Atlas Copco Cobra plugger drill up the length of the lake and met him at the trailhead. I was 16 at the time.  Although I was quite strong for my age, I clearly recall complaining about the weight of the drill as I struggled through the bush with it. Gunnard, a man well into 60s at this point, laughed at my complaints, grabbed the drill from me and hoisted it onto his shoulder with no fuss. (Anyone with any familiarity with Cobras knows what that takes and just how uncomfortable it is.) I think he was enjoying showing up the young pup.

We eventually reached a small clearing on an outcrop where there was evident signs of blasting and some amethystine rubble. This was the beginning of the Diamond Willow Mine. Gunnard drilled some holes with the plugger and prepared to put off some shots. He had stuffed some sticks of Forcite 40 into his pockets before heading up the trail. This was the first time we had seen blasting up close and as with most things associated with Gunnard it was memorable. He had some pre-cut fuse and a few blasting caps which had to be crimped onto the fuse with special plyers. In later years, we would use electric caps but these were still early days. He set the charges, lit the fuse (it would burn for about 30 seconds) and told us to find cover … which we did.

As we walked away – never run from an impending blast – to find shelter (with Gunnard yelling “Fire!”, the signal for anyone who might be nearby that an explosion was imminent) I became aware just how long 30 seconds can be. The anticipation of the bang made the seconds interminable. But off they went and I can still see the smoke slowly wafting through the trees and the smell of cordite in the air as we made our way back. And there lay our first amethyst specimens, which I still have to this day. We collected about 100 pounds or so of specimens and packed them into the canoe for the trip back. This was the beginning of a 42-year-long relationship, first with Gunnard and later with his sons.

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioDrilling at the Diamond Willow Mine in later years (I. Nicklin photo)

My father was a teacher and so he had the summers off. While I was in school, we would return to the Diamond Willow every year, collecting for several weeks. Later my father and mother bought a trailer in a nearby camp and spent the summers there – I would join them as time allowed.

We learned how to quarry, drill and blast. Although we used feather-and-wedge method of rock removal as much as possible (to minimize chances of damage), blasting was normally mandatory.

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioHoles set (I. Nicklin photo)

We typically used Forcite 40, which we found to be a good general purpose explosive and usually loaded the holes lightly so as to crack the rock but not throw it to minimize damage to the pockets. It might take a full day of drilling to lay out a blast and I clearly remember not being able to open my hands fully without pain after a day on the plugger.

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioLoading the holes (I. Nicklin photo)

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioWired and ready! (I. Nicklin photo)

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioInitial aftermath when the dust has cleared (I. Nicklin photo)

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioVugs lined with amethyst crystals in a tight brecciated zone (I. Nicklin photo)

The amethyst at the Diamond Willow Mine had a complex history of formation, with the crystals first forming tight to the walls of the pockets and then later, probably due to more geologic activity along the fractured fault systems the plates of crystals collapsed into a jumbled mass. At some later time these pockets became filled with a stiff red clay. This history of formation is something of a mixed blessing. If the pockets had not collapsed the crystalline plates would have to be cut or otherwise chiselled off the walls making recovery much more difficult. But of course, because they are collapsed, the plates suffered nearly ubiquitous damage. (Another “fun” aspect of working in the clay filled pockets is that the clay is typically riddled with tiny, razor-sharp quartz shards… after a few weeks of that, your hands are in rough shape…)

Although we have not been back to the Diamond Willow for many years now, today it is still in production.

- Ian Nicklin

Thunder Bay Amethyst

Crystallized quartz in the Thunder Bay District is found in vugs and cavities of varying sizes, from 2 cm across to a cavity large enough that you can crawl in. Donald Elliott (1982) describes one pocket that was 15 x 3 x 2.4 metres in size (references are listed at the end of this post). Amethyst crystals from the Thunder Bay District are most commonly 1-2 cm in size, but larger crystals are also occasionally found. Rarely, very large crystals have been found – a crystal 61 cm across is reported in Elliott (1982).

Thunder Bay quartz crystals occur in many colours and shades, from colourless to smoky quartz, and the variety amethyst occurs in crystals from delicate pale lilac to a deep purple that can approach black.  The lustre of Thunder Bay amethyst ranges significantly from the best of the brilliant, lustrous crystals at the Diamond Willow Mine (some of which look perpetually wet (!)) to crystals that are not bright and can even be fairly dull in lustre.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 8.2 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 8.3 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 13.4 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 9.6 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 9.4 cm

One of the most beautiful and distinctive characteristics of many Thunder Bay amethysts is the inclusion of red hematite (microscopic disks/spherules within the amethyst). The inclusion of red highlights, red zones, and even completely red amethyst crystals are all a classic look for Thunder Bay specimens.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – field of view 8.0 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 6.3 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Hematite disks/spherules included in quartz var. amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario
Field of view 1.7 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 7.4 cm

The crystal morphology of Thunder Bay amethyst is basic, as most crystals exhibit only well-developed pyramidal faces. Prism faces are uncommon, and doubly-terminated crystals are rare.

200008(7)(x4.1)Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 4.1 cm crystal

The glassy lustre on the best Diamond Willow Mine amethyst specimens is superb.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 12.4 cm

Some specimens are entirely red, and some show distinct zoning – the crystal surfaces are red and amethyst is evident as an earlier phase growth.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 11 cm high

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 7.0 cm

One of the authors has always thought the completely red ones look like clusters of jasper crystals, if only jasper crystals existed. (Neither Ray nor Ian has ever contemplated the existence of jasper crystals – both agree that’s a great description of the intense tone of red.) Certain of the completely red crystals have been found to be comprised internally of zoned ametrine, underneath the red outer layer.

The best of the amethyst specimens mined by David and Ian Nicklin at the Diamond Willow Mine are remarkable, in part for their brilliant lustre and exceptional condition.

 Labelling Thunder Bay Amethyst

The history of the amethyst discoveries and production of the past is helpful in understanding locality information, particularly for older specimens. it is also instructive for all specimens where the labelling has been vague. It is so common to see mineral specimen labels with “Thunder Bay, Ontario”, and no further information. Although “Thunder Bay amethyst” has actually occasionally been found right inside the city limits, the city of Thunder Bay is not the source of the Thunder Bay amethyst specimens on the contemporary mineral market.  Similarly, it would be a feat today to obtain an amethyst specimen excavated in the silver mines of the area before the early 20th century. Unless a specimen is actually known to date to the early 20th century or earlier, specimens labelled “Thunder Bay, Ontario” (or, one sometimes sees “Port Arthur, Ontario” on pre-1970 specimens) are most likely from any of a handful of producing mines and properties – or possibly even any of a rather large number of prospects and additional known deposits – most of which are in McTavish Township, in an area beginning about 50 km northeast of the city of Thunder Bay. Absent specific locality information, the use of only “Thunder Bay” on a label should be considered to refer to the Thunder Bay District.

Thunder Bay Amethyst – Today and Future

Thunder Bay amethyst is among North America’s finest and is known by collectors around the world. These amethysts are contemporary classics for mineral collectors. Because the amethyst-lined vugs of any size naturally have collapsed during their history before anyone has found or collected their contents, excellent quality specimens will always be uncommon, hard to obtain and highly prized.

Quartz, var. amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario
Field of view 4.5 cm

Amethyst has been found at many localities over a considerable area within the Thunder Bay District (localities up to 200 km apart) and mining continues today at a few properties. As Frank Melanson (2012) points out, thanks to our winters it is a short mining season, and thanks to the rugged terrain, access and access cost is always an issue, so it is difficult to mine Ontario amethyst profitably. And yet, the lure of the amethyst continues to inspire ongoing efforts, despite the economic hardships (and not to mention the black flies!). In Frank’s words, “for many, keeping the mines open was a labour of love.”

It is possible to personally collect amethyst in the Thunder Bay District, primarily on a fee-collecting basis, and also at other prospects and exposures. All of the authors have collected amethyst crystals in the Thunder Bay District. Most individual collecting is typically on the dumps, notably at the Amethyst Mine Panorama, but it is difficult to find collector-quality fine mineral specimens on the dumps. Other collecting is just a bit more involved, as Ian’s description conveys!

When amethyst was first encountered in the early silver mines of the nineteenth century, no-one would have foreseen the story of Thunder Bay amethyst as it has unfolded. Thanks to the later vision and pioneering efforts of Gunnar Noyes, Rudy Hartviksen and others, those first finds of amethyst would lead to the discovery of significant amethyst deposits and the preservation of spectacular amethyst specimens that now reside in museums and collections all over the world. It is unclear how many Thunder Bay amethyst mining ventures will be able to continue in the future, but it is likely that fine specimens will continue to be found, in very small numbers, relative to the amount mined. It is also likely that the best amethysts mined by David and Ian Nicklin will, for a very long time, be considered among the finest quality amethysts ever collected in the Thunder Bay District.

Agawa Bay, Lake Superior, OntarioLake Superior, Ontario

Amethyst specimens from the Diamond Willow Mine are available on the website – click here to have a look.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the Noyes family for their kindness and generosity, and for enabling the development of their deposit such that Diamond Willow Mine amethyst crystals will be enjoyed in collections worldwide for generations to come.

Thanks also to Tory Tronrud and the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society for kind assistance and permission to share the Fort William mountain train photograph in this article.

References

Elliott, D.G. (1982) “Amethyst from the Thunder Bay region, Ontario” The Mineralogical Record.  March-April 1982, vol. 13, no. 2.

Melanson, F. (2012) “Purple Rain: Thunder Bay Amethyst” No. 16: Amethyst, Uncommon Vintage. Gilg, H.A., Liebetrau, S., Staebler, G.A. and Wilson, T., eds. Lithographie, Ltd.

Vos, M.A. (1976) Amethyst Deposits of Ontario  Ontario Division of Mines – Ministry of Natural Resources, Geological Guidebook No. 5.